— and learns that remarkable men run in his family.
“Are these the kind of qualities that are passed down through a family? It’s not a far reach to say they are.”
To honor his late father, Jim decides to focus his search on his paternal line. He’s also heard about supposed French ancestry and wants to learn the truth of his heritage.
Jim’s mother gets him started with photographs and a death certificate for his great-grandmother Jeanne Hacker, who was born in New Orleans to Charles Hacker and Adele Drouet. Is this his French connection?
An 1850 census record for Charles Hacker reveals that his father, J. B. Hacker, was a physician in Iberville Parish. J. B. was the 55th graduate from the Medical College of Louisiana, only the second of its kind in the South. Hacker graduated in 1842, and by 1854 he was publishing an article on yellow fever in the New Orleans Medical Journal after treating patients during an epidemic of 1853. Jim is thrilled to find someone with such courage and commitment to humanity.
But then tragedy strikes: Jim discovers a newspaper account describing how Dr. Hacker was traveling with his daughter and a nephew on the steamboat Gipsy when the boat caught fire and sank in December 1854. He also finds a beautiful tribute to this “exemplary citizen” and leaves feeling closer to this learned man of science.
While the Hacker line gets Jim to Louisiana, it’s the Drouet line that takes him to France, via his immigrant ancestor Prosper Trouard. In France, Jim examines a baptismal certificate for Prosper’s father, Alexandre Trouard, born in Paris in March 1761. It lists both his father, Louis Francois Trouard, and godfather, who is also his grandfather and also named Louis.
Louis Sr. is a marble supplier to the king. Apparently, he had even higher aspirations for his son: Louis Francois would serve as an architect to King Louis XV.
This was a high artistic honor and one Louis Francois spent a lifetime earning. He was recommended to the Academy of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture in Rome at age 25. At 40 he took his place among the 32 members of the elite royal Academy of Architecture. He was appointed architect to the king in 1787 at age 60.
The timing of Louis Francois’ appointment is significant: 1787 is only two years prior to the French Revolution. Four architects were executed during the Revolution, and another 25 were imprisoned. Yet Louis Francois escaped Republican retribution. Jim wants to know why.
At the Chapelle de la Providence, a structure designed by his ancestor, Jim discovers the startling truth: Louis Francois had good revolutionary credentials, including house guests such as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.
Marveling at his ancestor’s accomplishments, Jim compares his own father to Louis’ father, who found a way for his son to be educated so he could succeed in his chosen profession. “I don’t know what I would have become without my father,” he explains. “And that’s what’s behind me for generations. And that’s amazing.”
Notes from our ProGenealogists team:
You may find obituaries, marriages, births, court cases and plenty of local color in the pages of newspaper articles on Ancestry.com or Newspapers.com. And if there’s a scientist or artist in your family, professional records could hold clues to their skills and accomplishments.
Learn more about Jim’s journey by watching the full episode on TLC.com.
We hope you enjoyed this season of Who Do You Think You Are? Catch up on all the episodes below.
Who Do You Think You Are? Episodes from Season 4:
- Kelly Clarkson
- Christina Applegate
- Chelsea Handler
- Zooey Deschanel
- Chris O’Donnell
- Cindy Crawford
- Trisha Yearwood